As a Queer Black Mom, I Strongly Relate to the Humor in “Wanda Sykes: I’m an Entertainer”

Wanda Sykes is one of my favorite comedians. Her last Netflix special, Not Normal, was hilarious, so when it was announced she had a new special coming, I was really excited. She did not disappoint. Her latest special, I’m An Entertainer, is a laugh out loud romp that tackles everything we’ve been dealing with since her last special, told through her particular brand of personal storytelling and humor.

Telling jokes about motherhood can become really reductive, but Wanda Sykes always keeps her motherhood jokes focused on the dynamics of her family, and that’s what makes them so funny.

She says that since her wife Alex was carrying their twins, it would be easier to have white children. “If shit didn’t work out, I figured it would be easier to walk away,” she jokes. That may be true, but I also wonder how hard it was to find Black sperm donors. There have been recent reports of a shortage, but it was probably a lot harder to do 13 years ago. While she believes her wife won’t like the joke, she adds she will really not like a caveat that Sykes put in her will. “In order for the kids to get the money, they gotta legally change their names to Rashad and Laquisha,” she jokes. Let me tell you, I was CRACKING UP. My son is mixed race and can pass as white, and I too worry about people questioning his blackness.

Later, there is a bit where she explains to her son that he can’t have a snake because Black women don’t tolerate stupidity. “It makes our ass itch,” she says. So no snakes as pets, and no extreme sports. “Is that why you won’t let me wear shorts when it’s cold?” her son asks. YES.

She also explores something exclusive to queer parents: making sure your kids go to an accepting and inclusive school. It is absolutely a concern, and as a two mom family, I understand why Sykes and her wife took a tour of the school first. While her wife was taken by the display of Pride flags and open inclusion in the school, Wanda was understandably skeptical. We’ve seen it a lot in the past year: Places that tout themselves as pillars of inclusivity aren’t always inclusive, especially when it may affect their bottom line. But the school’s mission is in fact inclusivity, which made a real difference to her.

Y’ALL. The scream I scrumpt during this entire bit was so loud I woke up the dogs. I strongly related to Sykes’ longing for more inclusive spaces in her youth. I’ve known I was attracted to women since I was in middle school, but if I had seen more direct examples of queerness in my everyday life, I truly think things would have been very, very different. I do think I was attracted to some guys, but I don’t think I would have felt such a need to force it.

Sykes admits that she’s always known that she was a lesbian. “I knew in third grade,” she explains. But when she told the older girl she had a crush on about her feelings, she was not only rebuffed, but scolded. “That’s disgusting. You’re nasty,” Sykes remembers the older girl saying. “You don’t like girls, you like boys.” And so Sykes made the decision to compartmentalize those feelings, putting them in a box until she could “afford therapy.” She then admits she was a virgin until her junior year of college and just wanted to get it over with (that felt EXTREMELY familiar!). I “lost” my virginity in college to a guy I kind of liked only because I was 20 and he was willing. Every guy I hooked up with in college was because I was bored or drunk, not because I was genuinely interested in them.

One of the things I think Sykes does well is talk about the reality of aging for women. In Not Normal, we are introduced to Esther, the belly fat Sykes says popped up when she reached middle age and menopause. Esther returns at the end of I’m An Entertainer when Sykes talks about her doctor suggesting they could use belly fat to give her new breasts after her double mastectomy. Fearing the fat will suffocate her in her sleep, she tells her doctor to stop talking about it in such close proximity. She also gets incredibly real about menopause and hot flashes, saying she wishes cis men had to deal with something similar in their balls. I am still years away from menopause, but it was fucking hilarious.

I’m An Entertainer doesn’t shy away from current events. Sykes takes on the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and Tennessee drag show bans. “I can’t tell you how many drag shows I’ve been to and everybody’s up in arms because they ran out of high chairs and booster seats,” she deadpans. “What the fuck is wrong with them?” She goes on to add that lawmakers in Texas claim their book bans protect children, when in reality, the thing that poses the biggest threat to their safety is assault weapons. Reading about a different person’s life isn’t dangerous, but a man with an AR-15 certainly fucking is. And until drag queens are the ones out here shooting children at school, they shouldn’t be seen as a threat.

Politics are also not off limits. “I’m tired of going high, I want to go low!” she exclaims after making jokes about Mitch McConnell and the flack she would get from Democrats like Cory Booker for making fun of ol’ Turtle face. She goes on to compare the GOP to the channel TLC, which feels quite accurate actually. Total trash, and a wild ride from start to finish. Additionally, Sykes theorizes that GOP members like DeSantis and Marjorie Taylor Greene aren’t afraid of CRT making white kids ashamed of being white but rather of being ashamed of the white bigots in their lives.

Some of Wanda Sykes’ most raw and thought provoking moments in I’m An Entertainer come when she talks about violence against Black Americans since 2020. You can tell it has had a deep effect on her, and she is honest about how hard she found it to keep going through all of the grief. Her feelings were exacerbated by being in a relationship with a white woman, who has a hard time fully understanding because of her whiteness. I also understand the struggle of trying to explain your feelings to your white partner when these tragedies happen. She reveals that her wife asked her to explain racism to their children after Ahmaud Arbery’s death and that it set her off.

“I can’t explain something that’s being done to me. Why don’t you go talk to them about white supremacy and make sure we ain’t raising a Proud Boy up in this motherfucker?”

This particular section hit home for me in a deep way. I often end up being the parent who has to explain these things because I’m Black. It’s not that my partner is avoidant, but there is nuance that she misses when trying to explain racism. Black people shouldn’t always have to do the heavy lifting on these conversations when there’s a white person present to take on some of the load. But in Sykes’ case, her wife misses a lot of nuance due to the cultural differences of her not growing up here. However, Alex does make a commitment to do better.

I’m An Entertainer shows Wanda Sykes doing what she does best: making you crack up one minute and making you think the next. It is a must watch if you haven’t seen it and something I will certainly watch again.

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Sa'iyda Shabazz

Sa'iyda is a writer and mom who lives in LA with her partner, son and 3 adorable, albeit very extra animals. She has yet to meet a chocolate chip cookie she doesn't like, spends her free time (lol) reading as many queer romances as she can, and has spent the better part of her life obsessed with late 90s pop culture.

Sa'iyda has written 121 articles for us.

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